October 29, 2011

Commander of VAFB’s Main Unit to Leave in January (Source: Lompoc Record)
The man who has led the main unit at Vandenberg Air Force Base will relinquish command early next year, and his replacement will be the first woman to lead the 30th Space Wing. Col. Richard Boltz, 30th Space Wing commander, will leave that job in late January, base officials said today. His replacement will be Col. Nina M. Armagno, who currently is serving as director of staff at Air Force Space Command Headquarters in Colorado. (10/29)

Rotorua Man's Quest to be First Maori in Space (Source: Rotorua Daily Post)
Mana Vautier wants to be the first Maori in space. Mr Vautier, who is of Tuhourangi descent, is an aerospace engineer with Odyssey Space Research. He works for a company that is a contractor to NASA in Houston, Texas and said from an early age he had always been into things about space and space flight. "It's my ultimate dream to be an astronaut," said Mr Vautier, who is back in Rotorua on holiday with his family of five. (10/29)

Mars500 Crew Prepare to Open the Hatch (Source: ESA)
The 520 days of isolation for the Mars500 crew will end on 4 November, when the hatch of their ‘spacecraft’ is opened for the first time since June last year. Scientists eagerly await the final samples as the crew count the hours to liberty. During the 17-month simulated Mars mission, the six men have run seemingly countless experiments. They have monitored their brains, scanned their bodies, given all sorts of samples and maintained their habitat.

The scientists are already happy with the quality of the unique material they have and are looking forward to working with all the new information. Teasing out the scientific results takes a while, but the main question is already answered – or almost: “The answer is yes”, says Patrik Sundblad, the human life sciences specialist at ESA. (10/29)

Elon Musk Named Innovator of the Year (Source: Tesla Motors)
Elon Musk, CEO and Co-founder of Tesla and CEO and CTO of SpaceX, was recognized for Innovator of the Year in Technology by WSJ. Magazine. The Year Awards honors the most creative, disruptive, and influential individuals in the world today. Musk was recognized for revolutionizing three of the biggest industries in the world -- automobiles, energy and space exploration -- simultaneously. (10/29)

Editorial: Wesley Harris: Space is No Place to be Second-Best (Source: Tallahassee Democrat)
Looking deeper into space, the next generation of human spaceflight, including possible trips to the moon, an asteroid and, ultimately, to Mars, awaits critical funding decisions in NASA and Congress regarding heavy-lift propulsion. These decisions -- long overdue -- must be made to keep us on track for the next round of great discoveries and exploration.

The proposed Space Launch System that Florida Sen. (and former astronaut) Bill Nelson calls "the biggest thing for space exploration in decades" is a good start. But, success will take steady funding and a stable, long-term commitment, something in short supply in Washington, D.C. [Also...] Basic research and advances in aeronautics made possible by space research have made civilian air travel safer and ensures that our air forces are the strongest in the world, as we saw when Western air power stopped Gaddhafi's forces without a single U.S. casualty. (10/29)

NASA Confirms ‘Suspicious Events’ in Satellite Hacking Report (Source: TPM)
NASA has confirmed that one of its earth observation satellites “experienced two suspicious events,” partly verifying the alarming conclusions of a draft of a forthcoming report by an independent Congressional advisory panel on U.S.-Chinese relations. NASA did not address the portion of the report that found the attacks bore hallmarks of the Chinese military, or someone affiliated with the inner-workings of the Chinese military.

But the agency did say that it had launched a task force to increase security, alerted the Defense Department and was “complying” with the National Space Policy guidelines. NASA confirmed two hacks affected its Terra AM-1 satellite, but said that no damage, theft or any other security breaches had taken place, and that NASA had restored its control over the satellite. (10/29)

New Mexico Spaceport: Making a Body of Believers (Source: Las Cruces Bulletin)
New Mexico's Spaceport America is really happening, and it is going to affect Las Cruces. According to Troy Tudor, a business development and marketing consultant working with Spaceport America, this concept has not been fully grasped by the community. A New Mexico State University economic impact study reported that spending dollars at Spaceport America will have a multiplier effect on surrounding communities, creating 11.58 full-time jobs for every $1 million spent and generating approximately 71 cents for every dollar spent. (10/29)

NASA Awards Contracts to Quintron (Source: Santa Maria Times)
NASA has awarded three additional contracts to Quintron Systems Inc. of Santa Maria to supply DICES VoIP mission-critical voice switches. One contract will provide a second DICES VoIP system to Johnson Space Center to become a primary operating system. The first system delivered in 2010 will be deployed at another NASA site as an emergency backup. A second contract will expand the existing NASA Ames Research Center Airspace Operations Laboratory system first delivered in 2008. (10/29)

Q&A: Mark Sirangelo on Dream Chaser and the Future of Space Travel (Source: Smart Planet)
When Mark Sirangelo talks about space travel, he has a big smile that won’t fade. He has every reason to be optimistic. After all, he’s building a vehicle that may soon transport seven passengers into space. It’s called Dream Chaser. And the timing is perfect, given that NASA’s 30-year space shuttle program has come to an end. Click here. (10/29)

12-Year-Old's Career: Ready for Blast-Off (Source: Philly.com)
Brandon Smoot, a 7th-grader at Devon Prep Middle School, was doing online research so he could design a two-stage hybrid/solid-fueled mini rocket when he found a company called SpaceX, school officials said. The more Brandon learned about the company - even copying one of its engine designs - the more intrigued he became with the company’s CEO/CTO and chief rocket designer, Elon Musk. Brandon decided he wanted to meet Musk, and so the 12-year-old penned a letter in February.

“I sent Mr. Musk some of my own rocket designs and requested a visit to one of their offices. The company wrote me back, sent me some SpaceX gifts, and an invitation to come out to their corporate office in Hawthorne, Ca., to meet Mr. Musk,” Brandon said. “It was too good to be true." Brandon, who hopes to launch a rocket-building career someday, would like to make space travel affordable for the average person. He said SpaceX representatives encouraged him to consider an internship with them when he reaches college age. "I think I’d like to do that,” he said. (10/29)

Planets Smashed Into Dust Near Supermassive Black Holes (Source: U. of Liecester)
Fat doughnut-shaped dust shrouds that obscure about half of supermassive black holes could be the result of high speed crashes between planets and asteroids, according to a new theory from an international team of astronomers. The scientists, led by Dr. Sergei Nayakshin of the University of Leicester, publish their results in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. (10/29)

Russia's Progress Cargo Spacecraft Undocks From ISS (Source: Xinhua)
Russia's cargo spacecraft Progress M-10M has undocked from the International Space Station (ISS) on Saturday. The spacecraft is scheduled to fall in a remote area of the southern Pacific Ocean. The Progress M-10M, which blasted off from the Baikonur spaceport on April 27, had delivered some 2.5 tons of scientific equipment, fuel and food supplies to the ISS. (10/29)

Lockheed Reports Flat Space Revenue (Source: Space News)
Lockheed Martin on Oct. 27 reported flat sales but increased operating profit at its Space Systems division for the first nine months of 2011 despite lower earnings from its United Launch Alliance joint venture with Boeing. Sales managed a 1 percent increase, to $6.02 billion for the nine months ending Sept. 25, despite the decline in revenue from its work on the external fuel tank of the now-retired space shuttle and on NASA’s Orion astronaut crew transport vehicle.

Lockheed Martin said the loss of the external tank work reduced Space Systems revenue by $85 million when compared to the same period in 2010. For the Orion program, whose development has seen ups and downs in revenue terms, the company said revenue for the first nine months of 2011 was $150 million lower than a year earlier. Operating profit for the Space Systems division was up $42 million, or 6 percent, for the nine months ending Sept. 25 compared to a year ago. (10/29)

Budget Puts Heat on Planetary Science Mission Extensions (Source: Space News)
Faced with a shrinking budget, NASA’s Planetary Science Division is instituting a strict new approval process for extended missions, and not even marquee probes such as the Cassini Saturn orbiter will be exempt from scrutiny, a senior agency official said. Cassini completed its primary mission in June 2008 but continues to return scientific data under an extended mission that is expected to cost $60 million in 2012 alone.

James Green, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division, said the future of Cassini and at least eight other ongoing missions including Mars rovers and a Venus orbiter will be placed under the microscope by senior planetary scientists in March. The panel is to hand in its recommendations shortly thereafter, he said. The review panel will meet once every two years to determine whether the “science per dollar” yielded by extending a planetary mission is sufficient to justify continued funding. (10/29)

Germany Reaffirms Commitment to $2B Ariane 5 Upgrade (Source: Space News)
The head of the German space agency said Germany remains committed to financing a $2 billion upgrade to Europe’s Ariane 5 rocket instead of proceeding directly to a new launcher design when European governments meet in late 2012 to set midterm space policy. DDLR, also expressed concern that the European Commission, which on Nov. 10 is scheduled to host a global space exploration conference, is dispersing its energies at a time when it has trouble financing higher priorities such as satellite navigation and Earth observation. (10/29)

Boeing to Sign Lease for U.S. Space Shuttle Hangar (Source: Reuters)
oeing plans to build space taxis at a mothballed space shuttle processing hangar at Kennedy Space Center in central Florida, according to company sources. The company has reached agreement with Space Florida, a state-backed agency working to expand space-related businesses in Florida, to lease the Orbiter Processing Hangar Bay 3 at the center, Boeing spokeswoman Susan Wells said on Friday.

Wells said details of the lease agreement would be announced on Monday. Sources familiar with the plan said it would center on the space taxi manufacturing venture. Kennedy Space Center is drafting a master plan for a revamped spaceport that, in addition to supporting future NASA spacecraft, will host commercial, military and international customers. (10/29)

NASA Will Get Camera Back From Apollo Astronaut (Source: Florida Today)
Federal prosecutors and former astronaut Edgar Mitchell have reached an agreement over a camera Mitchell brought home from his 1971 Apollo 14 moon mission. Mitchell said the camera was a gift from NASA, and earlier this year he tried to auction it through the British firm Bonhams. NASA says the camera is U.S. government property and sued Mitchell to get it back after learning in March it was up for sale.

In papers filed Thursday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami stated Mitchell will give up any claim to the 16 mm motion picture camera and agree to return it to NASA. NASA will in turn give it to the National Air and Space Museum in Washington for display within 60 days. Both sides will pay their own legal expenses. A judge was expected to sign off on the settlement in the coming days. (10/29)

If Cargo Flight Flops, Crew May Have to Ditch Station (Source: Florida Today)
A lot more than 2.9 tons of cargo rides on Sunday morning’s launch of an unmanned Russian freighter bound for the International Space Station. If there’s a repeat of the Aug. 24 rocket failure that doomed the ship’s predecessor, NASA and its partners likely would be forced to temporarily abandon the station next month, significantly increasing the odds the $100 billion research complex could be lost. (10/29)

Crucial LightSquared GPS Tests Begin (Source: Aviation Week)
Additional government testing of GPS receivers for interference from LightSquared’s broadband-wireless network under a revised deployment plan is getting under way at Holloman AFB in New Mexico. The FCC ordered the additional work after tests confirmed there would be severe GPS interference from the original deployment plan, but indicated the problem would be reduced significantly if LightSquared used only the lower of its two frequency bands, the one farthest from the GPS satellite signal.

The new tests, being conducted in an anechoic chamber at Holloman, are intended to determine whether widely used navigation and cell phone GPS receivers are still susceptible to overload interference from LightSquared’s revised lower-power, lower-frequency terrestrial transmitters. The FAA has issued a notice to airmen warning of GPS tests being staged between Oct. 24 and Nov. 18 near Alamogordo, N.M. (10/29)

Andromeda is Coming Right at Us! Or is it? (Source: Discovery)
This month, I was particularly intrigued by an article by Jeremy Darling in the newsletter of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. The title of the article asked, "Will the Andromeda Galaxy Collide with the Milky Way?" I was under the impression that it was already known that these two spiral galaxies would collide sometime in the next few billion years making a larger galaxy that some like to call "Milkdromeda." Apparently, the case isn't so cut and dry. Click here. (10/29)

Mars Rover Headed to Launch Pad Next Week (Source: Florida Today)
NASA's flagship Mars rover was encased in a protective aerodynamic shell this week in preparation for its move to the launch pad next week. The Mars Science Laboratory, nicknamed Curiosity, is targeted to blast off at 10:25 a.m. Nov. 25 -- the day after Thanksgiving -- from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station atop an Atlas V rocket. The compact car-sized rover, the biggest yet bound for the Red Planet, is scheduled to be hoisted on a transporter Tuesday and rolled from Kennedy Space Center's Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility to Launch Complex 41 overnight Wednesday. (10/29)

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